Remembering Philippe Petit’s Walk Between the Twin Towers

This black-and-white towers from the World Trade Center plaza show the Twin Towers rising to the sky.
Twin Towers. Photo: Fernando Zaccaria.

At just 24 years old, Philippe Petit made history on August 7, 1974 when he walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on a cable wire. The French high wire artist became famous for this death defying performance.  

When the Twin Towers were under construction, Petit, then an 18-year-old tightrope walker, read an article stating —the two buildings were set to be the largest in the world.  “They called me,” Petit said, “I didn't choose them. Anything that is giant and manmade strikes me in an awesome way and calls me.”

For the next six years, the aerialist dedicated himself to pulling off what would be deemed the “artistic crime of the century.” On the night of August 6, 1974, Petit and some friends dressed as construction workers and snuck into both towers. Making their way to the top floors in each tower, they secured a tightrope cable stretching from one rooftop to the other.  

As the sun rose over the towers, Petit took his first step on the wire. He was 1,350 feet above the ground as he ran, danced, and knelt down to salute the amazed audience that had gathered below. The number of spectators quickly grew from hundreds to thousands and Petit could hear their murmurs and cheers from his perch above them.

Petit made eight passes along the wire; his performance lasting 45 minutes. He was arrested when he finished, but authorities dropped the charges in exchange for Petit giving a free tightrope show to children in Central Park.

On Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Museum visitors with children are invited to participate in a free Stories & Art program. Guest speaker Ada Rosario Dolch will read Mordicai Gerstein’s “The Man Who Walked Between The Towers”, a children’s book about Petite’s incredible walk. Children will have the opportunity to participate in an art activity after the reading. Reservations are recommended, but not required.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff


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